Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Genesis 35:5), "the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them." - R.
Genesis 49:5-7); God's blessing could not rest upon it (cf. Psalm 34:7); and he and his family were involved in that wrong (cf. Joshua 7:13; 1 Corinthians 12:26). But was not the anger of Simeon and Levi just? No doubt there was cause, and no doubt a measure of righteous indignation. But
(1) they thought more of the wrong against themselves than of the gin against God (ver. 31).
(2) Their anger was unrestrained by mercy, or even by justice (ver. 25).
(3) It led them into acts of sin - deceit, murder, robbery.
(4) It was soiled by selfish gain (ver. 27). Anger may be right; but need of special, watchfulness (Ephesians 4:26). For under its influence the heart is not in a state fitted to judge; and much danger of self-deception, of mistaking a selfish for a godly anger.
I. A JUST CAUSE FOR ANGER DOES NOT EXCUSE ITS EXCESS. Anger may be called for
(1) as a protest against wrong;
(2) to deter others from wrong.
But vengeance, retribution, belongs to God (Romans 12:19). He alone has the knowledge to apportion it, looking both to the past and to the future. But anger tempts to retaliation (Matthew 5:38). The wrong fills the mind. Our own errors and acts of wrong (cf. John 8:7), and the plea, Thine anger brings harm to the innocent, are unheeded. The fact that there was cause for anger blinds to its real nature; for unrestrained anger is in truth an offering to self-love. The plea of zeal for right and of godly indignation may seem sincere; but "ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of."
II. A JUST CAUSE FOR ANGER DOES NOT EXCUSE WRONGDOING. God's laws cannot be set aside. And he who takes on himself the office of judge should be especially watchful not to transgress (Psalm 37:3). To do wrong on the plea of doing God's work is to distrust his providential care (Romans 12:19-21). It is to do evil that good may come; a form of being drawn aside by our own lusts (cf. 1 Samuel 24:7; 1 Samuel 26:9). Such acts of wrong are especially evil in Christians. They are "a city set on an hill." Men are ever ready to point to their errors as excusing their own. Men see and judge the act, but cannot estimate the provocation, or, it may be, the sorrow, for a hasty action.
III. WORKS DONE IN ANGER HINDER THE WORK OF THE CHURCH. That work is to draw men together in one (John 17:21). The power by which this is done is love. The love of Christ reflected in us (1 John 4:7). Love wins men's hearts, reason only their minds. And the presence of anger hinders love; not merely in him against whom it is directed; like a stone thrown into still water, it disturbs its surface far and wide.
IV. THE POWER BY WHICH ANGER MUST BE CONTROLLED. Dwelling on the work and example of Christ. He bore all for us. Is not wrath rebuked in the presence of his patience? And if as a "strange work" we are constrained to indignation, must we not watch and pray that no selfish feeling may mingle with it; and, knowing in how many things we offend, that we be "slow to wrath," ready to forgive, and ever "looking unto Jesus"? - M.